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Real Talk with QBV #9 with Former DIII Turned NFL Quarterback Joe Callahan

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

On Tuesday, August 11th, QBV met up with Division Three legend, Wesley Quarterback Joe Callahan. It's tough making the NFL, but against all odds Callahan has done it a few times, Callahan holds quite a few records and even has won the Gagliardi trophy Callahan has truly had a remarkable career that is still not over.

Joe Callahan told us about his unique journey and about all the bumps in the road he hit on his way to making the NFL. Whether it was with the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Ravens and the Detroit Lions, he has a lot of valuable experience we can all learn from.

Joe Callahan is still working in hopes to sign with another NFL team, we here at QB Velocity love seeing a member of D3 Nation making it big! Let's take a look at what Joe Callahan taught us!

Check out the full podcast on YouTube, Apple , Spotify or anywhere else you listen to podcasts!

What advice do you have for athletes during these crazy times?

It’s definitely a strange time, I usually work out at the local Middle School’s Football team’s gym and they even locked me out... The gyms are starting to open up in my area, just train on your own, there are tons of things you can do, with footwork, pushups and squats.

If you don’t have weights at home you can always use bodyweight and keep up with your cardio. Just stay as prepared as possible for any opportunity to come.”

Any particular advice for what QBs should be doing right now?

Quarterback is a tough position, all your other skill positions, like wide receiver can just, be running routes and stuff. I guess as a Quarterback if you don’t have anybody you trust to throw to, just work on staying in shape and fine tune the little things.

Footwork is a huge part of playing Quarterback, that is something most people don’t realize going into it, but just do what you can at this time and get as much accomplished with what you know you’re going to use as a Quarterback.”

What are your thoughts on the XFL coming back again?

I was in the XFL for a little bit, I joined the league late, with probably about nine days left in training camp. They put me on Team 9, is what they called it, it was kind of like a practice squad group, I was there for about five weeks, and then the league was cancelled because of Covid.

It was a fun league I liked a lot of stuff they were doing, especially getting the fans and the players involved, some of the stuff is hard to handle as a player, like once a kicker missed the game winning kick and they had a microphone in his face on the sideline. They did a lot of exciting things and I'm excited that there’s potential for it coming back next year.”

What made you start playing Quarterback?

You know it kind of started just naturally. My Dad pushed me in that direction as a kid, he had me in the backyard throwing. I played the three main sports Football, Basketball and Baseball growing up and then as I progressed, I narrowed it down to Football and Basketball in High School.

I got recruited a little bit more for Football going into College, I guess it was my Dad’s influence. I started playing in third or fourth grade, that’s when our peewee Pop Warner started. I played Quarterback my whole life and a little bit of defense to, but that fizzled out

over the years.”

What players did you look up to growing up?

I was a huge Brett Favre fan growing up, that’s is kind of who I styled my game around, I also liked Steve McNair to, but I was a huge Brett Favre fan so when the Packers signed me that was a dream come true being able to go up there and experience everything.”

So have you heard any good Brett Favre stories from either Aaron Rodgers or the Packers organization?

There were some good stories, he had a couple good pranks in the locker room. He tricked Aaron into signing his own helmet right before practice and Aaron had to go through practice with an autograph of himself on his own helmet, that was a little bit of his rookie hazing.

Everything I heard was that he was a really down to earth guy, great teammate. It didn’t matter if you were a ten-year veteran, an undrafted rookie or a guy on the equipment staff, he was everybody's best friend in that locker room.”

What was the recruiting process like for you, and what kind of offers were you getting?

It was a little stressful, I had a really good Junior year throwing the ball, and we had a really strong team coming back my senior year. I was lucky to throw the ball maybe ten times a game, I was usually out by halftime. I was originally getting recruited by the D-1AA level and then I really didn’t have any updated film my senior year, there were guys with double, triple the amount of throws per game I had, it would have been a risk on the Colleges...

They were just recruiting at lunch time and I didn’t meet with the college I ended up going to Wesley college until they came into my school at lunch and they started recruiting me. I started to go on my college visits, a lot of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland area schools recruiting me, actually none of the New Jersey D3 schools recruited me and a couple Massachusetts.

It was a little stressful, my school was a little bit outdated, I was sending out VHS tapes to colleges. At that point HUDL was just coming out, and we were still sending VHS’s and we were cutting them ourselves in the little coach's office. I tried going to as many of the one-day camps as I could. I had some good feedback but nobody took a chance.”

What was it like winning the Gagliardi trophy?

That was pretty cool, I was up for it my Junior year, with a Mount Union Quarterback that actually won it, the next year I was even more motivated going back. It’s obviously something that everybody puts on their goals for the year, individual or team, you kind of put that in your head so you have a little bit extra motivation.

I felt good at the end of the year, with what I was able to put on the field and I was definitely up against some really good players, it was definitely exciting. I was the second guy in Wesley’s history to win it, but it was just a really cool experience for me and my family.”

When did you start generating NFL attention?

Any school can have a pro day, but if you have no NFL teams there for the pro day, you are just having a pro day for yourself. There are certain rules, you can only have a pro day a certain radius from where you went to high school and from your college, so I called and I emailed every school in that radius with a pro day, with NFL scouts coming, I got turned down by them all except the University of Delaware, I had a pro day I trained for there.

NFL scouts were a little lukewarm about me, I had a good pro day but really no true feedback, just general answers like, ‘Hey you threw well,’ I didn’t really hear back from too many of those. Then around eleven PM I got a call from a Packers scout saying, ‘Hey, are you going to the University of Monmouth pro day,’ which is a school in New Jersey within my High School’s range. I had contacted that coach both personally and through E-mail and he said it was just for guys in their school, the scout said why don’t you come tomorrow, it’s at 9 AM, I literally was given the night before notice.

I drove up, and a Colts coach actually said the same thing to my College Tight End, you know just drive up, a scout usually has pull into the pro day. Monmouth still said no to both of us, we had to sit through a five-hour pro day. They had a tight end there and I said, ‘Hey I’ll throw you some routes if you want?’ and he said no...

I sat through this five hour pro day with my tight end, there was a fifteen minute window before a Girls' Soccer team wanted to use the facility, so I had maybe two or three warmup throws, my tight end did a few quad and hamstring stretches on the sideline and we tried to be as loose as possible, those fifteen minutes were enough to get myself an invite to Green Bay.”

What was it like getting a call from the Green Bay Packers?

They called me towards the end of the second day of the draft and said, ‘Hey we are interested in you, we don’t think we are going to draft a Quarterback, just keep your phone on after the draft.’ That was day two and then there was the third day, they were the only team I had talked to, and every pick got a little more stressful, there were a couple Quarterbacks still available and I was hoping the Packers would stay true to their word, even though they didn’t give me too much to go off of.

I was sitting there just watching the draft with my family and girlfriend, I was just sitting there watching the TV hoping every pick is not a Quarterback going off of the board and the beginning of the seventh round me and my girlfriend Carolyn went outside to play horse, just to kind of ease the stress, she ended up beating me that day.  After the draft, they called, and it was a dream come true, just to be able to get the opportunity to go out there and compete.”

What was the biggest adjustment going from Wesley to the NFL?

“The whole thing was a big adjustment, it is for a lot of rookies, but coming from a D3 school, typically when you see a linebacker that is 6’1 265, that isn’t 265  pure muscle running a 4.4, I had to adjust. For receiver speed, we had some fast receivers at Wesley and I went against some good Cornerbacks in my years, the speed of receivers and DB’s wasn’t a huge adjustment I guess, it was just bigger guys running those speeds.

The interior was definitely a big adjustment, you were just looking at different body types on the offensive and defensive line and linebackers. Of course, also the playbook, I went into rookie minicamp and they gave me a binder that was, four inches thick and I sent it to my college coaches and said, ‘Oh my god I have to learn this all right now!’ Little did I know that was just one install out of eight they were going to put in before the preseason.

Every day you were learning something new and learning a lot of it. Then I made the Packers team, then I found out Aaron Rodgers had an entirely silent hand version of the playbook, so he could operate the entire offense at the line of scrimmage and he wouldn’t tell anybody just in case they got cut and brought it to another team.

It was definitely a lot, every day you were studying, I had an offensive lineman as my roommate throughout training camp, we would be getting back to our rooms at eight at night and getting up at six the next morning to get to the facility on time, we would try and get three hours extra for studying.

We bought a little white board for the dorm room we were in so we could get the protections down. For him we were doing protections and run plays, and I'd also study the whole pass game, so it was a grind.” 

Do you have any tips on how kids can improve on learning the playbooks?

It kind of depends from team to team, I was just in Baltimore and they did a great job with their playbook, they used a lot of memory tools so you could clump styles of plays together.

Depending on where you are, in New Orleans since Drew was there for so long, the playbook was styled around him and he could handle 20-30 word plays every single time. Just depending where you are you got to use every resource, whether it’s working with a coach or a GA, or a wide receiver in your dorm, or just another teammate trying to get through the same playbook.

Then you have to put the time in, once you get back to your house or dorm or whatever, just trying to prepare yourself as much as possible and then make the most of each rep that you get." 

You have been on a few teams, what was it like to be playing alongside some of the all-time greats like Brees, Rodgers and Lamar Jackson who’s on his way, what was it like playing alongside them?

I’ve been lucky to have played with a lot of great Quarterbacks, super bowl MVP’s, MVP’s of the league, each one of them had a slightly different style. Aaron taught me a lot about defenses and extending the play.

Drew Brees showed me how much preparation and anticipation goes into having such a long career as his.

I was with the Eagles where they had just won the super bowl, I was able to ask Nick Foles and Carson a lot of questions.

I was in Cleveland where there was a group of three rookies and Josh McCown, who was in year fifteen or sixteen at that point and RGIII, who was injured but rookie of the year and another quarterback

I was able to ask questions and try to pick their brain. I’ve had a lot of different Quarterbacks, with a lot of different styles of play. Aaron and Matt Stafford had similar styles but it’s just another thing to watch in practice, them prepare and it’s really helped me grow a lot, just being able to get a lot of different perspectives from playing the same exact position.”

What advice do you have for D-3 players trying to make it to the highest levels of Football?

“It’s definitely tough but you see a couple guys each year get picked up, the running back a year above me had an opportunity with the Washington Football Team in minicamp and then a guy on the line two years younger than me, I think he is still with the Falcons, and he made the team out of rookie minicamp just like me and he’s fighting to keep his job...

As unlikely as it is, you can’t look at the statistics, you just have to put in the work and compete and make the most of your time playing Football. Look at D-3 in college as your last time playing or it propels you into a long career in the United States, Canada or oversees somewhere, there’s opportunities all over the world to continue playing Football, if that’s something you enjoy and love just work as hard as you can...”

What are some of youIs there a certain drill you picked up that you love doing?

“There was one specifically in Green Bay, it’s one you can definitely do on your own, it definitely helps with a coach or someone to throw to or something to throw at. It’s essentially, it’s just two bags and you would start in the middle and kind of while you are looking downfield, hop in and out, the QB coach in Green Bay would kind of point you in each direction, and then on the clap you had to get yourself settled, and hit your target.

That was always one of my favorites but like I was telling Robbie, there are so many drills out there, especially with the internet now and social media you can put in any key word you are looking for and find one hundred different drills on it.

As long as you keep it by position and game related, things you think you are going to use in the game, I'd definitely use those as much as possible, whether its stepping up in the pocket, or stepping back, step up escape and throwing on the run, it’s all great things.

There’s things like jumping rope where you could just fine tune those fast twitch muscles you can use in the pocket, side by sidestep up movements, just keep yourself prepared for anything.”

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